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Dive Review of Grand Komodo -- Putri Papua in
Indonesia/Raja Ampat

Grand Komodo -- Putri Papua, Oct, 2010,

by Rick Sterne/Chrisanda Button, AR, US (Sr. Contributor Sr. Contributor 24 reports with 8 Helpful votes). Report 5742.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving Bahamas, Bay Islands, Belize, Bonaire, Cozumel, Caymans, Turks&Caicos, Sea of Cortez, Australia, Fiji, Truk, Yap, Palau, other areas of Indonesia
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, cloudy Seas surge, currents
Water Temp 81 to 83 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 45 to 50 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile ?
Enforced diving restrictions We dove with the dive guides because they could spot H. ponthoi we would never have found. The group was not a tightly bound one, and the DM's were not at all controlling.
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 5 stars
Small Critters 4 stars Large Fish 5 stars
Large Pelagics N/A

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 3 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 5 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments Crew members handled cameras very carefully and quickly learned which camera belonged to each diver. There were plenty of power strips and a voltage converter on the dry table in the salon. Compressed air was available on the camera table on the dive deck. With four cameras on board, none large, space was ample. Macro photography was a challenge, not due to a dearth of subjects, but due to strong currents.

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 3 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 4 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 2 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments We spent ten days diving in the northern Rama Ampat Islands from Grand Komodo's Putri Papua. Having read a great deal of "hype" about diving in the R4, we wondered whether the area could possibly live up to its reputation. I was also concerned that dive sites might be crowded with twenty-odd liveaboards operating in the islands. Both concerns were unfounded. We never encountered another dive boat, and our expectations for the diving were exceeded by our actual experience.
The hard corals were dense and very healthy. There were several areas where the soft corals were as colorful as any we've seen (and, yes, we have dove in Fiji -twice). Most diving occurs on walls or seamounts. All were thronged with fish. Large schools of jacks, trevally, fusliers, unicornfish,snappers, and barracuda blocked our view into the blue on a number of sites. We also saw some half dozen white tip and black tip sharks and a number of tuna swimming past. One dive featured three very large nurse sharks sleeping in a cavern, and we encountered woebegong sharks on most of our dives. Clouds of anthias and damsels hovered over large plates of acropora coral. We saw at least eight species of anemonefish and numerous representatives of the angel and butterfly clans. Turning to the walls, we also saw a good variety of nudibranchs, porcelain crabs, shrimps, and various worms. Several octopus and cuttlefish put in daytime appearances. How good were the best sites? Let me quote from my logbook, written in the heat of the moment after a dive at Sardine Reef:
We were warned that schooling fish would be absent because we
were diving in the slack tide. So we descended to the sand slope
with coral heads and started looking about. We quickly spotted
a juvenile rock mover wrasse, a pair of fire dartfish, a pair of
flame dartfish, a pair of arrow gobies, a leaf scorpionfish, a
Chromodoris koi, a nice flatworm, and a very shy black-masked
jawfish. Rickie and I watched a free-swimming feather star being
nipped at by a wrasse. Then we swam farther, and THE FISH CAME!
Huge streaming schools of fusiliers, jacks, snappers, unicorn-
fish, surgeons, and giant trevally. We hovered amid the swirl
for fully ten minutes. On our safety stop we watched a pair of
huge Pomocanthus xanthometropon, angelfish, being cleaned. We
saw a small Napoleon wrasse and three large bumphead parrotfish.
The piece de resistance: as we swam off the reef, a squadron of
eight eagle rays sailed past. A dive to remember!
And that was just one of thirty-four dives. Strong current was present on most of our dives, but the Putri Papua's crew knew when to take us to each site for the best conditions, balancing currents and presence of marine life. We did have two rather rough dives. At Batu Barung, strong upwellings and downwellings plagued us. We had just cleared a five-minute safety stop over the blue when one last upwelling grabbed us. All of us using Suunto computers, including one of the dive guides, were sent down for an additional three minutes' hang time. At Equator Rock II, we actually ended a dive early because the very strong surge was banging us all around - not good for us or the coral. The superb diving in Raja Ampat certainly justifies the effort of swimming in currents. We cannot actually identify 265 species of fish, but I think we saw most of the species we can identify and learned a number of new ones. We know we saw several new-to-us species of nudis. We frequently consulted the Putri Papua's excellent ID library. The boat carries Kuiter and Tonozuka's wonderful three-volume Indonesian Reef Fish, as well as Debellius's Nudibranchs of the World and Crustacea of the World.
The Putri Papua is one of Grand Komodo's second generation boats, larger than the Nusa Tara but smaller than the Temu Kira. The boat can carry eight divers, but there were only six on board for our trip. As has always been our experience when diving with Grand Komodo, the other guests were congenial and skilled divers. We were three Americans, two Dutch, and one German. The boat has a schedule of four dives per day, well spaced to allow rest time between dives. All dives were at least one hour in length, a number well over seventy minutes. We dove from the dinghy, going out in groups of three. The two dive guides moved back and forth between the two groups. Head dive guide Joni spoke very good English and gave all the dive briefings. Papuan Tadeus spoke virtually no English, but led dives skillfully and was very sharp-eyed.How do they spot tiny Hippocampus ponthoi clinging to crinoids in a ripping current? Or H. bargibanti on a seafan at 92 feet when we're hooked in against an upwelling? The guides were safety conscious and watched closely to be sure that all divers were more or less comfortable in the currents. Just as important to diver safety is the dinghy driver. Ghandi was typical of Grand Komodo's attentive dinghy drivers. I never doubted that if a strong current did get the better of me, Ghandi would pick me up quickly. At dive's end, we handed up our gear and climbed a ladder back into the dinghy. All tank fills were 2900+, and tanks were refilled promptly in our dive stations. Each station had two baskets underneath for storing gear. Crew members carried our gear from the dinghy back to our dive stations. A nice touch was having a bottle of water labelled for each diver on the dive deck.
Food is second in importance only to the actual diving. Food on the Putri Papua was plentiful and delicious. Our Balinese cook Kameng served three tasty Indonesian meals as well as substantial and more western afternoon snacks. We always enjoy Grand Komodo's signature fruit smoothies. Meals are served buffet style. Breakfast offered toast as well as nasi goreng or banana pancakes or various egg dishes. The bacon in Indonesia is much better than that in the US. Lunches and dinners consisted of fresh fish or seafood (catch of the day has a different meaning here) as well as a chicken or beef dish, fresh veggies, and a salad. At dinner we enjoyed delicious fresh soups as well. Desserts were tropical fruit.
Our cabin in the bow was comfortable and had adequate storage space. The slightly elevated beds allow large bags to be stored underneath. We slept on the double bed and used the single for storage. There was a small desk with a mirror and two storage drawers. The reading lamp over the bed provided good light for the three pages I could read before falling asleep. The en suite bathroom had a hand-held shower as well as a sink and toilet with bidet. Cabin showers are tepid, but deck showers are hot. Our cabin was cleaned daily, and linens were changed regularly. Other divers reported roaches in their cabins, but there was not an insect problem in ours. We liked the fact that the salon, where we ate and hung out, was cooled by fans and sea breezes rather than air conditioning. The covered sun deck was a comfortable spot for reading or napping during surface intervals and a great vantage point for watching the sunsets.
Not enough can be said about the gracious crews on Grand Komodo's boats. Their standard of service sets the bar for liveaboards, regardless of their price. Reading the recent Undercurrent article on "trip-ruining dive guides" made us very glad we dove with Grand Komodo.

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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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